Delayed aircraft carrier set to launch this fall with partial air wing

JUST IN: Delayed aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford prepares for multinational exercise

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After years of delay, the Navy plans to deploy the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford in a multinational exercise this fall, officials announced July 13.

The flagship of the Navy’s new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will have a “partial air wing” when it sails later this year, Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, Commander of the Naval Air Forces, said. , at a Center for Strategic Studies and Roundtable on International Studies and the US Naval Institute.

An ambitious “two-to-three-ship evolution” of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the Ford has faced significant delays throughout its development, said Rear Admiral James Downey, the Navy’s program director for the carriers. -planes.

The ship was officially commissioned by President Donald Trump in 2017, but the integration of various new technologies has caused further delays. Nonetheless, Navy officials said they were pleased with the progress the carrier has made over the past few years.

It’s been “the last three very intense years. But it’s a microcosm of creating a new class,” Downey said. The Gerald R. Ford is actually a year or two ahead of recent Navy expectations, he added.

In the years since it was commissioned, the ship underwent a rigorous amount of testing and trials, including an 18-month period where it spent nearly half that time at sea, Downey said. . After that, the ship went through four months of crash tests which showed its superior design, he said.

Ford finished the crash tests with 20% of the damage that CVN-71 – USS Theodore Roosevelt – suffered in its crash tests during the 1980s, according to Downey. “[That] talks about the design,” he added.

The carrier’s nuclear power also gives the Gerald R. Ford an edge over its Chinese competitor, the Fujian aircraft carrier, said Ward Carroll, director of marketing and outreach at the US Naval Institute. and retired naval commander. Both carriers have an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, he noted, but Fujian is at a power disadvantage.

“It’s a conventional motorized transporter,” Carroll said during the roundtable. “So they’re going to have to refuel like every day to feed the” launch system.

The Gerald R. Ford, on the other hand, can carry excess nuclear capacity, making powering up the launch system a simple task, Carroll said. “In fact, this excess energy capacity can be used in the future for self-defense capability which may also make hypersonics a moot point,” he added.

The new carrier will have company on its first deployment, Downey said.

“She’s on track to go there this fall,” he said. The multinational event will include French and British carriers, at least seven other navies, he added.

Topics: Navy News, Aircraft Carrier, Shipbuilding

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